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Why voice communication is important to the clearing process

Following major changes to A-level exams in 2018, the number of students ‘who secured pass grades at A-level dropped to its lowest point in eight years’. As a result, many were forced to head through the clearing process. But scary as this might sound, tens of thousands of places were actually still available, including spots at 18 leading UK Russell Group universities.

By the end of the period, 60,100 students gained places through clearing – setting a new record and proving that the process has become an ever-more important tool for students. But it’s also worth noting that clearing isn’t just about helping students find courses.

Given that fees can make up 80% of income for some institutions, clearing is also a valuable opportunity for universities to make sure that places on their courses are filled. Empty course places can equate to a significant financial shortfall, so universities need to ensure the clearing process runs as smoothly as possible to attract the best students.

Providing the perfect clearing experience

In their bid to improve the student experience, some clearing offices are beginning to use other forms of communication to handle the process. In 2017, Leeds Beckett university implemented a chatbot ahead of A-level results day to help prospective students find the right course. But as helpful as tools like this can be, nothing will ever replace the importance of voice communication.

With many students from around the country (and even internationally) urgently seeking places on their desired course, applicants rely on phone calls to discuss their options and even receive informal offers. It’s an emotional day, and never more so than when grades are missed and hoped-for university places aren’t confirmed. As such, universities hoping to attract the best talent need to make sure they have friendly and helpful voices at the end of phone lines, and advisors with the right training to discuss applications on a case-by-case basis.

Powering calls during clearing

Investing in training for staff is an essential part of this. But these staff also need the right tools and platforms to make sure calls can be handled effectively. The university clearing process tends to run from before results day to shortly before the start of term, during which time thousands of students adapt their plans and scramble to find the institution they’ll be studying at for the coming years. With clearing lists published on results day, the bulk of the calls come in a short time frame – meaning universities need to be able to handle a huge influx of calls.

To do this successfully, they need a greater number of available phone lines than at any other point during the year. But with many Higher Education institutions facing funding challenges, it isn’t sensible to pay for this capacity all year-round. In summary, universities clearing centres need scalable solutions that can then be dialled back down once term starts.

SIP trunking can help clearing offices to meet increased demand without placing a strain on budgets for the rest of the year. Unlike traditional ISDN, SIP trunking offers universities the ability to scale up lines during the clearing period, and scale back down once term begins. It’s also cheaper than ISDN, offering savings of up to 50% on line rental.

No matter what complementary technologies universities develop, phone calls will always be the best method for students and universities alike to handle the complex clearing process. And whether from more students missing their targeted grades due to stricter exams, or more universities urgently trying to empty spots, it’s likely that record numbers of students will continue to rely on clearing. So, having the right telephony solutions in place has never been more important – and due to its flexible nature, SIP trunking is likely to be a great option to support this.